Japan ranked 22nd of 54 countries in the second EF Education First (EF) English Proficiency Index (EPI), EF Education First Japan Ltd announced Friday at an event in Tokyo attended by leading figures from industry and academia.
According to the results, Japan recorded an EPI score of 55.14, below the average of 58.58 among OECD member countries. In the Asian region, Singapore and Malaysia scored the highest in 12th and 13th positions respectively, with South Korea in 21st place, Hong Kong in 25th, and China 36th.
This second edition of the index combined a unique set of data gathered from 1.7 million adults in 54 countries worldwide using free English tests over a period of three years, from 2009 to 2011. This is the first time the results have been disclosed and discussed in detail in a Japanese context.
The findings for Japan showed differences by region, gender and age group. Scores from Tokyo and the wider Kanto region exceeded those of other areas of the country, likely due to the greater concentration of international business operations and opportunities to use English.
The index also found that women in Japan scored slightly higher than men, while by age group, young people between 18-25 had the highest scores, with English proficiency then gradually declining for middle-aged and older people.
The results showed that once learners leave school, it is difficult for them to enhance English skills themselves through further education. This is in contrast to China, where English proficiency rises steadily from the early 30s.
EF Education First Japan President Sang-Chul Lee said, “Despite Japan’s record of excellence on international tests in areas such as mathematics, its English proficiency is still relatively weak compared to other developed countries. However, with the focus on English education in elementary and junior high schools in recent years, and Japanese companies increasingly adopting English as their official language, many people are diligently learning English.
“The problem from a Japan perspective is that, although knowledge of grammar may be relatively strong, having the confidence and ability to actually communicate with international citizens remains a challenge. Particularly in this increasingly globalized environment - with Japanese companies accelerating international expansion efforts - it is critical to be able to break down not only language but also cultural barriers and operate as truly global citizens.”
EF announced the EPI results today during a symposium on “Current Needs in Japan’s English Education - Cultivating a Japanese Workforce Able to Compete Globally,” which was attended by more than 170 education industry officials and experts. The event also featured a panel discussion covering issues including the current state of English education in Japan and the challenges faced by corporations as they accelerate efforts to foster internationally-minded human resources.
Panelists included Mikael Palmquist, President and CEO of IKEA Japan KK, Kiyohiro Sugashita, Special Advisor for the Dean of Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University and an international financial consultant, Hiroshi Deguchi, Visiting Professor at Hiroshima Jogakuin University and advisor for the Test of Logical Thinking, and Satoshi Koyama, Deputy General Manager, Metals Group, Corporate Strategy & Planning Department at Mitsubishi Corporation.
Results and analysis from the EF EPI English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) can be viewed at www.ef.com/epi